Latest reviews by Dodie Mercer

(2018)
"Icing on the Cake of a Great Weekend"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I took part in the Grand Slam weekend and lastly we ran the half marathon on Sunday.

We hit the expo Friday afternoon which is in the Arts Quest building across from the historic Steel Stacks. It was easy to navigate with a good mix of vendors. Shout out to Aftershokz!

Earlier in the week we received a virtual goody bag with lots of discounts from the race sponsors. Since I was running the Grand Slam I got a long sleeve and half zip. Both were very nice quality.

Parking was the same as it had been all weekend. I got there half an hour before the race and was able to park and walk to the start in 5 minutes.

It was a lot colder so I was even more thankful for the heated buildings with bathrooms.

I believe the start was the same as it was for the 10k. On Friday a local runner and I decided to run the race together so I found her in our corral and we were off.

We wove around the same streets we had for the races the day before. Aubrey had advised me that there were four "challenges" to the course. Each challenge was comprised of a set of hills.

The first challenge came at mile three and was easy enough. It was the same bridge we'd crossed in the 5k and 10k followed by an uphill with a little downhill recovery.

The next challenge came at mile six. To the best of my memory it was a few steeper hills back to back.

For me the third challenge was the most difficult it was a long gradual hill that never seemed to end. This was from miles 7-8. My Oiselle Volee ladies were waiting at the top though and that lifted my spirits.

The last of the challenges came in mile 10. I knew once that hill was over I'd be home free. A little down hill then the same route back as the 5k and 10k.

There's something really cool about crossing the same finish line three times over the course of three days.

Since I did the Grand Slam I was given a special larger finisher medal.

Post race they had bagels, granola bars, bananas and water.

The course had ample water stops and I think a few even had gels.

Overall I'd highly recommend this half marathon. It's a great course full of challenges. I'd also recommend combining it with some of the other races of the weekend. Runner's World really knows how to put on an event.

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(2018)
"Five Star 5K"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I took part in the Grand Slam weekend and second up was the 5k on Saturday.

We hit the expo Friday afternoon which is in the Arts Quest building across from the historic Steel Stacks. It was easy to navigate with a good mix of vendors. Shout out to Aftershokz!

Earlier in the week we received a virtual goody bag with lots of discounts from the race sponsors. Since I was running the Grand Slam I got a long sleeve and half zip. Both were very nice quality.

Parking was the same as the it was for the expo so that made things easy. The only catch was that some lots would be closed until late morning due to the 10k. Since I was running that as well it was no big deal.

It was a little chilly but there were several buildings right at the start to take cover in and as an added bonus they had bathrooms too!

The race started a little over 10 minutes late due to a train coming through but there's no much they could have done about that. Thankfully it wasn't freezing out.

I don't typically look at course elevation before hand so I was a little surprised with how hilly it was. There was a decent sized hill on the way to a bridge that we crossed and another hill shortly after. We were rewarded with some down hills after that though.

The finish winds you around some of the abandon buildings from the old steel works before finishing right in front of the abandon Steel Stacks. This would be the first of three times I'd cross that finish line since I was doing the grand slam.

The medal was the same size and design as the trail metal except of course it said 5k.

I didn't grab any water on course but there were two water stops. Post race they had granola bars, bananas and water.

Overall I really enjoyed this 5k. It was my first larger scale 5k and I had a lot of fun running it.

Some people ran it stand alone but there was also the Grand Slam option, the Hat Trick option and the Five and Dime option. I really liked this because everyone was really out there doing their own thing.

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(2018)
"First Trail Race Ever!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I took part in the Grand Slam weekend and first up was the trail race.

We hit the expo Friday afternoon which is in the Arts Quest building across from the historic Steel Stacks. It was easy to navigate with a good mix of vendors. Shout out to Aftershokz!

Earlier in the week we received a virtual goody bag with lots of discounts from the race sponsors. Since I was running the Grand Slam I got a long sleeve and half zip. Both were very nice quality.

Parking for the expo was ample but we needed to take a shuttle to the start of the trail race.

We got there about an hour early and were treated to some warm up talks by team Altra which included tips on trail running. Bart Yasso got on the mic then and told us that when we see the final hill we'll know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He was right!

The trail is mostly single track so it was pretty crowded from the start. Honestly it was kind of nice because I couldn't have gone much faster even if I'd wanted to. There were some pretty serious hills on the course in addition to the final doozy of a hill.

I remember at least two water stops on the course and an aide station.

The course scenery a beautiful fall afternoon in Pennsylvania.

We were served hot pizza at the finish along with bags of popcorn.

This was my first trail race and I loved every minute of it! I am by no means a trail runner and I found it to be fun and not at all intimidating. I'd highly recommend it, even if you're not a trail runner!

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(2018)
"Tough 10k"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I took part in the Grand Slam weekend and third up was the 10k on Saturday.

We hit the expo Friday afternoon which is in the Arts Quest building across from the historic Steel Stacks. It was easy to navigate with a good mix of vendors. Shout out to Aftershokz!

Earlier in the week we received a virtual goody bag with lots of discounts from the race sponsors. Since I was running the Grand Slam I got a long sleeve and half zip. Both were very nice quality.

Parking was the same as the it was for the expo so that made things easy. The only catch was that some lots would be closed until late morning due to the 10k. Since I was running that as well it was no big deal.

It was a little chilly but there were several buildings right at the start to take cover in and as an added bonus they had bathrooms too!

Since the 5k started late that meant we had even less time to recover for the 10k.

We started a little further down than the 5k but the beginning of the course was very similar. After we went across the bridge though we started to climb, and climb. I swear miles 2-4 were nothing but uphill after uphill with no recovery.

We finally hit a steep downhill that didn't last near long enough before winding our way back to the Steel Stacks to the same finish line.

Again there were a few water stops along the course.

Same medal, this time a 10k version.

We had the same banana, granola bars and water at the finish line.

This is a tough 10k. I'd love to do it again for the challenge.

If you're running a combination of races make sure you leave something for the 10k because it will kick your butt!

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(2018)
"New Favorite Half Marathon!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

This was my first time running a race in Philadelphia and I'm in love!

Expo: I caught an Uber to the expo because it seemed like parking may be tricky. I had a hard time finding which building of the convention center the expo was actually in. I team up with a woman I met that was also running the half. We went to three buildings before we found the right one,.

Packet pickup was a a breeze. I was in and out in under two minutes. The expo itself was what you would expect from a larger race. I took a quick picture with my bib and picked up some Honey Stingers for the race. The one thing that impressed me was all of the RnR medals for doing multiple races. They were in a glass display case. I've never seen anything like that before and now I kinda want to do multiple RnR races just to get one!

T-Shirt/Swag- The shirts were tech material which I'm not a fan of. They ran small but I opted not to exchange mine because I'll be donating it anyway. The swag itself was coupons. I miss the days when SWAG bags had food =(

Parking/Access- As I mentioned above I Ubered to the expo because we had been warned parking would be expensive. I opted for the same on race morning. I paid $16 between the two trips and saved myself a lot of headaches.

On race morning it was easy to find and get into the corrals. I liked having so many and staggering the start so it wasn't a big crush of people right off the bat. This was the best corral management I've every experienced.

Course Scenery- The first few miles of the race took us through downtown Philadelphia where you couldn't help but admire the architecture. The first few miles were very flat with a few small down hills.

We then headed out of town along the Schuylkill river. One of my favorite parts was going through a stone tunnel! It was very peaceful to be along the river. There were some runners on the path along the river as well as people out on the river rowing.

Eventually we crossed a bridge and headed back into town. I overheard someone saying "it's downhill from here. That include just kept going!" I actually felt like we were going DOWN on the way out not up. I live in Central PA and I'm use to running up a hill only to turn and have to run up another. This whole flat thing was very foreign to me.

Once we were on our way back into the city the sun came out. It had been cool yet humid up until then and I was not looking forward to running in open sun. Luckily we were only out in the open for a little bit before being saved by trees lining the road.

Before long we were back in the city crossing the finish right in front of the "Rocky Steps"!

After I crossed the finish line I was given a ton of food and drinks. They were handing out bananas, chips, hummus, soft pretzels, water, full bottles of Gatorade, chocolate milk, bagels, fruit snack and my personal favorite a wet wash cloth for the back of your neck! I've never been given so much swag after a race. However, I wish they would have handed out bags for it all. I didn't check a bag and I was by myself so it was a lot to carry.

I didn't stay at the finish long because it was starting to get hot out and there wasn't a lot of shade. A band was playing but I wasn't sure if it was the headlining band or not.

Elevation Difficulty- I kept bracing myself for some sort of hill. I knew the course was suppose to be flat but I though for sure with those downhills we were doing there would eventually be a hill to go up. I was wrong! I definitely want to come back to this course for a PR attempt in the future!

Aid Stations- There were plenty of aid stations on the course and I believe all of them had both Gatorade and water. A few of them had SIS gel which I tried but had to throw out. Not my jam.

Overall- Overall I loved this race. The course was beautiful, we were well supported along the way and the finish line was one of the best in terms of taking care of the runners.

Parking would have been tricky but I planned ahead to use Uber. That was the only drawback I could come up with.

If you're looking for a well run PR half course in the fall you really need to make a trip to Philadelphia!

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